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Tragically Hip concert party could be huge

Published on

Cathy Dobson

It’s going to be a party, a tribute and a fond farewell when the Tragically Hip’s final concert is broadcast live in Canatara Park Aug. 20.

The city has approved the use of the park’s massive main field to show the concert on two 30-foot inflatable screens, thanks to a small group of local Hip superfans.

The response has been unbelievable, said organizer Aaron Zimmer.

“I’ve got people constantly calling to get involved,” he said. “We thought at first maybe 1,000 or 2,000 people would be there, but now we’re thinking 6,000.”

That Night in Sarnia is billed as a free family-friendly concert at which food vendors and souvenirs will be available. A licensed area will cater to the over-19 crowd and local band, The Room, will play Hip songs.

City council also waived the noise bylaw for this one occasion and let the party continue until 1 a.m., if the broadcast goes long.

Zimmer said organizers went door-to-door in surrounding neighbourhood, alerting residents that there could be late-night music.

“No one objected,” he said. “And no one came to council with concerns.”

Zimmer is collaborating with Blackburn Radio, where he works, and with Stu Manchee, owner of The Station Music Hall, and John Hockin of Apex IT Solutions to present That Night in Sarnia.

“I was shocked in May to hear that someone I admired for so long has terminal cancer, and that this could be a true farewell concert tour,” said Zimmer.

“Knowing that it could be The Hip’s last, and knowing that so many people were upset about the ticket gouging incident (when the tour quickly sold out), some friends and I thought this would be a great idea.”

Zimmer initially talked with a friend about having people over for a backyard viewing of the CBC broadcast of the band performing their last concert stop in Kingston.

“But then everybody wanted to come, so we said let’s do this for the community.”

It turned out other communities plan similar parties, including Petrolia, Forest and Chatham. Large inflatable screens were getting tough to rent, so one organizer purchased one while the second was rented for Canatara Park.

Otherwise, everything is being donated or covered with sponsorship money, said Zimmer.

While the event is free, donations are encouraged and will be given to the Gord Downie Fund for Brain Cancer Research and the Bluewater Health Foundation, for the local hospital’s Cancer Care Assessment and Treatment Centre.

Zimmer said he hopes to raise as much as $10,000.  If pre-sales on event T-shirts are any indication, it might be possible. More than 100 have been pre-purchased on the K 106 website already with a good portion going to the two charities. Profits from beer tent and food sales will also be split between the two agencies.

The Tragically Hip has attracted legions of fans over three decades and performed numerous times in Sarnia. The band played Bayfest three times and Gord Downie came in 2014 to perform with The Sadies at Festival of Good Things.

The Hip’s latest album, Man Machine Poem, features a track called “In Sarnia” that created a local buzz prior to its release.

But the buzz quickly died once people realized they couldn’t figure out what the lyrics mean, Zimmer said with a laugh.


WHAT: Free, televised outdoor concert of the Tragically Hip’s final performance.

WHERE: Canatara Park. Bring lawn chairs, blankets and bug spray.

WHEN: Saturday, Aug. 20. Starts 6 p.m. with Tragically Hip videos and concert footage. The Room plays Hip tunes starting at 7 p.m. Live broadcast at 8:30 p.m.

TICKETS: Free, donations welcome. If you plan to go, organizers would appreciate you visiting the Facebook page (That Night in Sarnia) and hit the “going” button to give them an idea how many will attend.

The Arts Journal focuses on cultural events in Sarnia. If you have an idea, contact [email protected] or call Cathy at 226-932-0985.

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